Teenagers Wilhelm Christensson and Aymeric Gillard take break from studies to to experience thrills of China Sea race
RHKYC youngsters leap at the chance to test their sea legs in voyage to Subic Bay
The youngest sailors in the Rolex China Sea Race, Wilhelm Christensson and Aymeric Gillard, will take a welcome break from their IB studies as they learn the ropes, figuratively speaking, on board Shahtoosh, one of 34 boats in the fleet which will set sail at 1.20pm on Wednesday from Victoria Harbour to Subic Bay in the Philippines.
"I took part in the San Fernando race last year but this is the first time I'm taking part in this prestigious event and I can already see by the number of media and cameras out here today that it is easily the biggest and most famous offshore sailing race from Hong Kong," joked Gillard with the aplomb of a veteran sailor on the eve of the race.
Gillard and Christensson are both 17. Gillard goes to South Island School and Christensson attends Hong Kong Academy in Sai Kung - but they have forged a close friendship on the water with both being part of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's youth squad, the Sharks.
"We have been together for a long time, sailing 29ers and now the bigger and more powerful 49ers. But when the opportunity came up to take part in the China Sea Race, we jumped at it," said Christensson. "While Aymeric has done an offshore race before, this is my first time and I'm not sure what to expect."
Peter Cremer, skipper and owner of Shahtoosh, a Warwick 75, is a family friend of the Gillards and when he offered Aymeric the opportunity to be part of the crew together with his mate Wilhelm, the chance was seized.
"For a few days we can forget about our schoolwork and just go out and experience taking part in a race which everyone says is a great experience," said Gillard.
It is unlikely to be plain sailing for the pair during the 565-nautical-mile race. As Peter Churchouse, skipper of Moonblue 2, which like Shahtoosh is taking part in the IRC Premier Division, explained: "Everyone thinks the Sydney to Hobart race is the biggie for sailors and yes it is a classic hard race for sure. But this China Sea Race takes sailors much further offshore and well out of range of airborne help in the event of a disaster.
"It is not quite the benign tropical paradise that some people might imagine."